10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Mass
It’s normal to have concerns regarding how to participate in an unfamiliar rite, particularly if you’ve been attending the Novus Ordo (Ordinary form) regularly. Some differences between the two forms of the Roman rite should be no cause for anxiety. Interior involvement – attentiveness of the heart and soul – in the liturgical celebration, not an “active participation” meaning exterior activity alone, is what the Church asks of us while assisting at holy Mass. (although exterior activity is not excluded) This misunderstanding has led to unwarranted criticisms of the Traditional Latin Mass by those who seek to have it suppressed. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, regardless of which form or rite in which it is celebrated, always is and will be the perfect offering to the Father by the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit.
1. If you are a newcomer to this form of the Roman rite, recognize that you have been invited by God Himself through a particular grace to be motivated to attend it. He has much to reveal to you by your attending this Mass, even if the first few times you go you find it “over your head”, baffling, or confusing. Do not give up because it may take six or seven times before you begin to be comfortable. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. The spiritual benefits will amaze you.
2. Go to Father Young’s Ostende blog to obtain the readings and proper prayers for Sunday and Feast day Masses in English and Latin. Inexpensive paperback Sunday missals are available for purchase in the back of the church. Eventually you’ll want to obtain a full scale 1962 Roman Missal. This is really important for getting the most out of assisting at the Traditional Mass. Baronius Press, Angelus Press, and Fraternity Publications all have missals you can purchase to use to participate in the 1962 Mass, and also because you can read the daily Mass propers (see #6 under “Seven Common Questions”) when you can’t attend daily Mass. Ask someone who is experienced to help you learn how to use the missal. A real benefit of owning your own copy of Treasure and Tradition, also available in the vestibule, is that it has pictures of what the priest is doing so you can follow along more easily, a glossary, etc. The English translations from the Latin are not only accurate, they are beautiful.
3. Have no anxiety over keeping up with the priest. Much of the Traditional Latin Mass is said in a low voice by the priest, because part of the Judeo-Christian liturgical heritage involves sacred mysteries which are prayed inaudibly by the priest. The silent parts of the Traditional Latin Mass are opportunities for contemplation of the great mystery of the Sacrifice of the Cross (participatio actuosa). After you have attended this Mass for awhile, you will find it easier to follow along with the priest. Meanwhile, take time to read the excellent English translations opposite the Latin text in the missal of your choice before assisting at Mass, and meditate on them.
4. It is also a good idea to simply watch the sacred actions of the priest and the servers while contemplating their meaning. The richness of the Extraordinary Form consists of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic experiences which are meant to bring one to the highest possible level of unity with God. The language of love is not merely a spoken one, nor does it require a great deal of activity to convey its meaning.
5. Standing, kneeling, and sitting at the Traditional Mass: If you are uncertain what to do, follow the instructions in your missal and watch what others are doing.
6. Ask an experienced person for guidance, or to help you learn to pronounce the responses in Latin that are expected of the congregation when attending the Traditional Mass. Most of them are very simple. Latin has a great advantage: it has only one sound for each of the five vowels, and the diphthongs are easily mastered as well. In addition, since much of English is based on Latin, the meaning of the phrases is fairly simple to learn, especially with the vernacular translation beside the Latin.
7. The priest proclaims the Epistle and Gospel at the altar, with the congregation making the appropriate responses in Latin. After the priest has read the Gospel at the altar he proceeds to the pulpit where the usual custom is for him to read them in the vernacular to the people, followed by his sermon.
8. Unlike at the Novus Ordo, the Pater Noster (Our Father) is said aloud only by the priest. The laity answer with the servers the final line of the prayer: sed libéra nos a malo (but deliver us from evil).
9. The manner of receiving Holy Communion is kneeling and on the tongue, not in the hand. Only those with physical disabilities should receive Holy Communion standing or sitting. People with celiac disease should let the priest know so they can receive the Precious Blood. Otherwise, Communion is given under the species of bread only. Unlike in the Ordinary form, the communicant does not answer “Amen” before receiving the Host. Be sure to acquaint yourself with the words of the extraordinarily beautiful blessing the priest gives to you as he makes the sign of the cross and places the sacred Host on your tongue. In English: May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul unto life everlasting. Amen.
10. After the Mass is over, the priest (at Low Masses only) usually, according to custom, leads the congregation in the Leonine prayers for the conversion of Russia. The Leonine prayers were prescribed by Pope Leo XIII who wrote the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, and reinforced by Popes Pius XI and XII. For eighty years (1885-1965) the prayers were said after Low Masses, but, while never proscribed, they became optional after Vatican II, and thus were dropped altogether nearly everywhere. The Leonine prayers are usually said in the vernacular, but may also be said in Latin, depending on the custom of the place.
Next week: Seven Common Questions About the Extraordinary Form/Tridentine/Gregorian Mass – whichever you may have heard it referred to – the classic form of the Roman Rite